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Art. 41, Of a mon Matheu thohte


ABBREVIATIONS: AND: Anglo-Norman Dictionary; ANL: Anglo-Norman Literature: A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts (R. Dean and Boulton); BL: British Library (London); Bodl.: Bodleian Library (Oxford); CCC: Corpus Christi College (Cambridge); CUL: Cambridge University Library (Cambridge); IMEV: The Index of Middle English Verse (Brown and Robbins); IMEV Suppl.: Supplement to the Index of Middle English Verse (Robbins and Cutler); MED: Middle English Dictionary; MWME: A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050–1500 (Severs et al.); NIMEV: A New Index of Middle English Verse (Boffey and Edwards); NLS: National Library of Scotland (Edinburgh).

5 under. “Undren,” that is, nine o’clock in the morning.

7 mydday ant at non. “Midday and at none,” that is, at noon and three o’clock.

9 hoc. If we are to imagine a vineyard, then the implement is probably “a sharp hook for cutting or tearing”; see MED, hok (n.), sense 4.(a). The definition provided for this line, however, suggests an implement for an English field harvest: “a sickle for cutting grain; a reaping hook, a scythe” (sense 4.(c)).

13 evesong. The sixth canonical hour, that is, evening vespers.

42 ase foreward wees. “According to the agreement, pledge, or bargain.” See the idiom under MED, fore-ward (n.), sense 3.(b).

45 lees. The word has a range of meaning: “untruthful”; “faithless, disloyal”; and “?unjust” (the definition chosen by the MED for this line). See lese (adj), sense 1a.(c).

48 wraththelees. “Without anger.” This is the only attested instance of the word, according to the MED.


ABBREVIATIONS: As: Aspin; Bö: Böddeker; Bos: Bossy; Br: Brook; BS: Bennett and Smithers; BZ: Brandl and Zippel; B13: Brown 1932; B14: Brown 1952; DB: Dunn and Byrnes; Deg: Degginger; Do: Dove 1969; Gr: Greene 1977; Ha: Halliwell; Hal: Hall; Hol: Holthausen; Hor1: Horstmann 1878; Hor2: Horstmann 1896; Hu: Hulme; JL: Jeffrey and Levy; Ju: Jubinal; Kel: Keller; Ken: Kennedy; Le: Lerer 2008; Mc: McKnight; Mi: Millett; MR: Michelant and Raynaud; Mo: Morris and Skeat; MS: MS Harley 2253; Mu: H. M. R. Murray; Pa: Patterson; Pr: Pringle 2009; Rei: Reichl 1973; Rev1: Revard 2004; Rev2: Revard 2005b; Ri1: Ritson 1877; Ri2: Ritson 1885; Ro: Robbins 1959; Sa: Saupe; Si: Silverstein; St: Stemmler 1970; Tr: Treharne; Tu: Turville-Petre 1989; Ul: Ulrich; W1: Wright 1839; W2: Wright 1841; W3: Wright 1842; W4: Wright 1844; WH: Wright and Halliwell.

2 whrohte. So MS, W3, Mo, B13. Bö, Br: wrohte.

24 nyht. So MS, W3, Mo, B13, Br. Bö: noht.

39 A mark at the foot of column 70vb matches one at the top of 71rb, indicating how the reader is to skip over the left-hand column of the facing page to find the remainder of the poem.

52 doh. So MS, W3, B13. Bö: doht. Mo, Br: doþ.













¶ Of a mon Matheu thohte
Tho he the wynyord whrohte,
   Ant wrot hit on ys boc.
In marewe men he sohte;
At under, mo he brohte,
   Ant nom, ant non forsoc.
At mydday ant at non,
He sende hem thider fol son
   To helpen hem with hoc;
Huere foreward wes to fon
So the furmest heuede ydon,
   Ase the erst undertoc.

At evesong even neh,
Ydel men yet he seh,
   Lomen habbe an honde;
To hem he sayde an heh
That suythe he wes undreh
   So ydel forte stonde.
So hit wes bistad
That no mon hem ne bad
   Huere lomes to fonde.
Anon he was byrad
To werk that he hem lad;
   For nyht, nolde he nout wonde.

Huere hure anyht hue nome,
He that furst ant last come:
   A peny brod ant bryht.
This other swore, alle ant some —    
That er were come with lome —
   That so nes hit nout ryht!
Ant swore somme unsaht
That hem wes werk bytaht
   Longe er hit were lyht,
For ryht were that me raht
The mon that al day wraht
   The more mede anyht.

Thenne seith he, ywis:
“Why, nath nout uch mon his?
   Holdeth nou or pees!
Away, thou art unwis!
Tak al that thin ys,
   Ant fare ase foreward wees.
Yef Y may betere beode
To mi latere leode,
   To leve nam Y nout lees;
To alle that ever hider eode
To do today my neode,
   Ichulle be wraththelees.”

This world me wurcheth wo!
Rooles ase the roo,
   Y sike for unsete,
Ant mourne, ase man doh mo,
For doute of foule Fo,
   Hou Y my sunne may bete.
This mon that Matheu yef
A peny that wes so bref —
   This “frely” folk unfete —
Yet he yyrnden more,
Ant saide he come wel yore,
   Ant gonne is love forlete.
¶ Matthew reflected upon a man
When he worked in the vineyard,
   And wrote it in his book.
In the morning he sought workers;
At undern, he brought more,
   And hired, and none dismissed.
At midday and at nones,
He sent them thither quickly
   To help them with cutting hook;
Their contract was to receive
The same as the first had done,
   And as the first received.

At close to evensong,
He saw men remaining idle,
   Having tools in hand;
To them he said emphatically
That he was quite unwilling
   To see them stand so idly.
Then it was determined
That none had ordered them
   To use their tools.
Immediately he resolved
That they should work as he assigned them;   
   Despite nightfall, he didn’t hesitate.

Their pay at night they accepted,
They who first and last came:
   A penny broad and bright.
These others swore, one and all —
They who had come early —
   That it wasn’t at all right!
And some unhappy ones swore
That work had been assigned to them
   Long before it dawned,
And that it’s proper to give
The one who worked all day
   The greater reward at night.

Then he says, indeed:
“Why, doesn’t each have his?
   Hold now your peace!
Away, you are foolish!
Take all that is yours,
   And behave as was agreed.
If I may offer better terms
To my more recent workers,
   Don’t consider me unjust;
To all who ever came here
To serve today my need,
   I shall be without anger.”

This world provokes misery in me!
Restless as the roe,
   I sigh at the presence of evil,
And grieve, like the man who labored more,
In fear of the foul Devil,
   Over how I may atone for my sin.
This man to whom Matthew gave
A penny that was so little —
   This unsatisfied “generous” man —
Still he desired more,
And said he had come long before,
   And did forfeit his master’s love.


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Go To Art. 43, Lenten ys come with love to toune, introduction
Go To Art. 43, Lenten ys come with love to toune, text